A 45-year-old Kona man was sentenced on Thursday to 20 months in a federal prison for running an illegal gambling business.
Eric Ford pleaded guilty on Feb. 21 to one count of operating an illegal gambling business and three counts of structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements.
Ford ran his operation out of Aloha Springs Water Company in Kailua-Kona. Prosecutors say he took numerous sports bets over the phone and online, collected gambling debts and paid out gambling winnings. Ford also knew financial institutions are required by law to record cash purchases of money orders and other monetary instruments totaling $3,000 or more. To avoid this record keeping requirement, Ford structured the purchase of money orders totaling more than $3,000 by purchasing smaller amounts at multiple institutions. Ford structured more than $120,000 between May 2009 and June 2012.
As part of his plea agreement, Ford forfeited $129,566 in cash and a vehicle purchased with proceeds traceable to the illegal gambling business. Ford also forfeited a Rolex watch he received as collateral for a gambling debt owed to him by a bettor. These items were seized on Nov. 28 during search warrants executed at his home, business, and two safe deposit boxes. An additional $66,339 in cash and two vehicles are being forfeited by other defendants in the case.
Besides Ford, seven other individuals were indicted and have pled guilty to charges arising out of this case. At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi commented that Ford was the leader of a sophisticated gambling operation.
The case was a result of a four-year investigation by the Hawaii Police Department, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service.